'Swings and Roundabouts' by Amanda Mason

     My daughter is dead.
     I looked away for a moment, distracted by the flutter of my mobile phone in my pocket. I looked away just long enough to check the screen, a call from work.
     But in that moment Alice slipped away.
     She liked the boats in the pond, you see. The little model sailboats.
     Three years old.
     It didn't take long. Her coat was heavy and she couldn't swim.
     A man pulled her out, a tall thin man with a child of his own, a child and a sailboat. He was pulling her out of the lake as I got there, screaming, screaming, screaming, the stupid phone still in my hand.
     "There," he said, softly "No harm done, eh?"
     He pushed her into my arms, embarrassed, I suppose, at the state I was in.
     He pushed her into my arms and the people that had gathered drifted away.
     "You should get her home," said a young woman, "dry her off. Do you have far to go?"
     But she's dead, I wanted to say.
     She wriggled out of my arms and looked up at me. Her eyes were pale and blank. Her fine blond hair was plastered to her skull.
     Can't you see she's dead?
     My dead daughter looked up at me with her famished smile and her empty eyes. I could hardly bear to look at it, this rag doll parody of my lovely girl, so I looked down at the ground instead.
     I followed it up the hill, to the swings. I followed the little wet footprints scattered over the path as quickly as I could before they dried and faded away, and I left the man and his boat behind us.
     It likes the swings, just as Alice did.
     I'll let it play for a while.
     Then I'll decide what to do.


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